Book Review: Lost and Founder 

A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World

Written by Moz Founder Rand Fishkin, Lost and Founder is a practical account of the ins and outs of building a tech startup, from product development to fundraising, growth hacking to leadership. Prior to its publication, Fishkin was known for being a respected authority on SEO due to the success of his marketing software startup, which raised US$10 million at a $120 million valuation in 2016.

The book offers a disarmingly honest look at startup life. In chapter three, Fishkin dedicates a whole section to discussing why being a ‘CEO Is a Really (Shitty) Job.’ He relays the fact that a CEO’s time is bogged down in mundane tasks, such as hiring, attending conferences, and fundraising, as opposed to developing the product that ignited their passion in the first place. In chapter eight, he debunks another false notion about entrepreneurship, which is that successful founders will get rich fast. He included a graph charting his salary from 2001 to 2015 and compared it to the average salary of a software engineer in Seattle. Needless to say, the difference was marginal.  

On the surface, Lost and Founder is an effective ‘field guide’ for navigating the startup world, as the title suggests. But its tone shifts slightly in the later chapters. One can’t help but sense his distaste for, or–we dare say–hatred toward certain actors in the ecosystem. It’s evident that his exit from the company he spent 15 years building was not entirely amicable. This underlying sentiment is at odds with the overall tone that the book ascribes to–that is, to provide a transparent and objective view of entrepreneurship. 

Fishkin’s introspection is the most compelling when he discusses why vulnerability does not equal weakness as an entrepreneur. For example, he shares his brain tumor diagnosis in the book, which put his professional struggles into perspective. All in all, the book is a great resource for aspiring entrepreneurs, but offers less value to those who have already set off on their journey, even if his playful writing style makes for an enjoyable read. –MC

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Cover art courtesy of Penguin Random House. 

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